My father decided that I was ready to fast the year I turned ten. We were in the Philippines that Ramadan, and a couple of my cousins – who were the same age as I was – were staying with us during that time. So Abbu thought this was the perfect time to teach us about fasting. My younger sister, who was eight years old, insisted on fasting as well. So on the first Friday of Ramadan that year, the children woke up before dawn to start their first fast. We went to school that day, and quietly sat throughout lunchtime whilst all our classmates had their meal.
When we reached home later that day, we couldn’t find our parents. It was something very unusual since Ammi was a housewife then and was always home whenever we arrived from school. The aunty next door came over to tell us that Ammi wasn’t feeling well so Abbu had to take her to see the doctor. She told us to behave, then left when she heard her baby cry. Since our parents weren’t around, we were happy that we won’t be taking our afternoon nap, and dashed outside to play hide and seek. A couple of hours later, we were back at home and worried. I saw the aunty peek out from her window, making sure we weren’t breaking anything, then went back to whatever she was doing.
By five in the afternoon we were all tired, thirsty, hungry, and worried. Since Ammi wasn’t around to remind us – plus we were so engrossed in playing – we missed all our prayers that day. Being the eldest, I decided that we break our fast. At first we were skeptical, but decided that it was the right thing to do since we were uncertain on when our parents will return. So an hour before iftaar, we drank water and ate dates.
Ammi and Abbu arrived shortly thereafter.
They had brought snacks and juice with them, and lots of fruits of us. We all sat together to break the fast and offered our prayers.
Then Abbu took me to another room, where he asked me sternly on why I decided to break my fast and encouraged the other children to do the same. Tears trickled down my cheeks as I listened to him stress on the importance of patience and perseverance during fasting, my head bowed in shame and regret. I’ve never felt so guilty in my entire life. I felt responsible for the broken fast of my sister and cousins as well.
Then Abbu drew me close to him and gave me a hug.
It was explained to us that day that we should ask Allah for forgiveness and make up by offering our prayers punctually and pay more attention to our Qur’an lessons. Ammi and Abbu decided that we weren’t ready for fasting that year, and therefore paid more attention on helping us improve our prayers, and taught us more about Islam and its pillars.
We were in Karachi the following year, where I had my first complete fast. By then I had learned its importance and virtues. Everyone around me was fasting – that made things a lot easier. And later that day, my grandmother arranged for a grand iftaar party for me, where I got to wear new clothes and received lots of gifts!
So the memories of my first fast isn’t really too … exciting to recall … but I’ll always remember that day, because I’ve learned the importance of Ramadan and salat, and of patience.
How was your first fasting experience? And more importantly, what did you learn that day?